Costs of sick kitties

Little Kitty needed to get her teeth cleaned.  So DH took her to the vet.

Before they could give her anesthesia, they had to do $600 worth of tests.

Unfortunately, one of the tests came back with elevated calcium levels.  So no anesthesia.  No teeth cleaning.

Instead, more tests.

First, a test for what kind of elevated calcium it was, since only the ionized kind is bad.   $214.70 and a few days time for the calcium test.

She has elevated ionized calcium.  :(

The next step is to see if she has parathyroid problems or stomach cancer.  Test for parathyroid:  $950.  Ultrasound for cancer:  $1000.  (Plus a few days to work up the estimates.)

That’s a lot of money.

So our next step is to ask what the treatment options are if either of these cost money, and what those treatments will do to Little Kitty.  If they’re things that can be fixed with minimal harm to her, then we’ll pay for the tests and the treatment.  But if they’re things where the treatment is as bad as the disease, then well, it might be best not to know.  Because kitties don’t understand what’s going on with them and they’re not gaining an additional 30 years with a successful cancer treatment, especially not older kitties.

Right now Little Kitty seems to be in high spirits.  Other than being a bit skinny and the occasional bout of IBS whenever she eats something she shouldn’t, she *seems* fine.

Still, the parathyroid thing would explain the IBS.  And elevated calcium levels do need to be treated so as not to cause problems with the kidneys.

If these $2000 turn up nothing, there will probably be more tests.  If they turn up something, then there will be more money for treatment (probably surgery, according to Dr. Google).  How much money is too much?  What is Little Kitty’s life worth?

Right now we’re fortunate to be able to say that Little Kitty is more important than a kitchen renovation.

It is going to be an expensive summer.

20 Responses to “Costs of sick kitties”

  1. Omdg Says:

    Apologies in advance for being pedantic, but the second test measured ionized calcium levels, not ionic (wasn’t sure if this was an autocorrect issue). Necessary because only unbound (to protein) calcium “matters” and the chemistry test she got first measures total levels. It seems like those are very high prices for blood work, but I also have no idea what kind of deal vets have with labs. The vet we take our dog to charges $80 for a Bp check which seems astronomical to me.

  2. Linda Says:

    Very sorry to hear about Little Kitty’s health issues. :-( When our pets get older, the health care costs go up, just like when we get older.

    My dog is now 13 and has had some intermittent, seemingly minor health things pop up in the last year. Because of those symptoms and some consistently abnormal liver health tests over the past several months, she had an ultrasound on her liver last week. Thankfully, it didn’t show anything to freak out about right now, but she’ll get another one in a few weeks to track some nodules and make sure they aren’t anything serious. (I guess when dogs get older it’s not uncommon to have some nodules in the liver and deterioration of liver health, but I’m still figuring this out.)

    The ultrasound and removal of a small growth on her head only came to $400. (I guess like anything else, vet costs vary depending on your local living costs.) When she goes in for her next ultrasound I’ll get more info from the vet about what is going on and estimates on how much it will cost to continue to monitor or treat her. I’m glad I don’t have to make a choice about affording vet care for my dog now. I do have limits, although it’s not as much about money as it is about her quality of life.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Looking online all the estimates for u/s top out at $500. I have no idea why this vet is 2x as expensive.

      • Rosa Says:

        we had a young cat with a deformed bladder that made her get lots of UTIs and miss the box often. It seemed like a good bet for intervention – a clear diagnosis, many years of health for the cat if we treated. The vet closest to us quoted us something like $4000 for surgery to fix it but I called around and found a vet a few miles away that was less than half that price.

        Aside from the money I think it was a good decision because that vet was much more pragmatic and less prone to emotional strongarming, which was really helpful as our cats aged and needed more veterinary care. She obviously cared deeply about our animals but didn’t have the attitude that we were irresponsible pet owners if we didn’t go for every most expensive option. And we have learned over time that the clinic does a lot of discount work for local rescues/

  3. What Now? Says:

    Oh dear, poor Little Kitty.

  4. chacha1 Says:

    It’s especially difficult to make the call when a pet is obviously still feeling pretty good more than 50% of the time. My own little sick cat has me on a rollercoaster. Last week for two days she hardly ate anything, then acted like nothing was wrong for the next two days. She’ll run around like a crazy person one day, then hardly move the next day. With her test results and age in mind, it’s pretty clear there *is* actually something wrong. Looking at it in a lifetime context is the best I can do: normal behavior five years ago vs normal behavior now. She used to run around like a crazy person EVERY day. Normal now is still not that great. She is still clearly a sick old cat.

    When there is an intervention that is affordable that will deliver, say, another year of acceptable quality of life, I’m in favor. But once you’re looking at monthly vet visits, multiple invasive tests, and/or multiple procedures that may or may not convey any ultimate benefit, I lean toward pulling the plug *before* the animal is clearly moribund. Because like you say, they don’t understand. And my budget doesn’t have a lot of wiggle room.

  5. xykademiqz Says:

    :( Poor kitty…

  6. Donna-Lee Tucker Says:

    Having spent well over $1000 in the last year testing and medicating an almost 19 year old cat in kidney failure, I feel for your dilemma. In January, we decided that all the testing and poking wasn’t going to make any difference and was just upsetting her and us. I almost took her in to be put down then, but she rallied and now will make it to her 19th birthday. She hates the special diet so we give her what she likes. She has forgotten about the litter box so we took up the rugs. We cuddle her when she wants even though she’s not so conscientious about her hygiene any more. The decisions are harder when something (always expensive) that you could do might help. Good luck.

  7. gwinne Says:

    I’m sorry.

  8. bogart Says:

    Oof. I’m sorry. Hard decisions. I hope the money you are spending on her healthcare helps Little Kitty.

  9. Shannon Says:

    We had a similar situation with one of our cats who wasn’t all that old. The vets told us it could be one of three things, two of which were fatal and one of which was not. Giving the cat steroids would cure him of the non-fatal disease but wouldn’t be harmful if it was one of the others. We chose to skip the tests (which would have cost thousands of dollars) and just give him steroids. That didn’t work, and the cat died – not sure which of the two diseases it was. The vet office clearly thought we were horrible human beings for this decision, which I couldn’t understand as the other two diseases were NOT curable. We’ve since found another vet who is more understanding. It’s not that we are reluctant to spend money on our animals (we once spent 3K+ on a surgery to remove a tumor on our dog as the vet thought there was a good chance it would be successful – it wasn’t), but I don’t feel that I need to KNOW everything about my animals’ illnesses if it doesn’t change the course of treatment.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:


      Here they said that both the parathyroid and the cancer would involve surgery.

      I really hope it isn’t cancer, especially since it will have been 3 weeks since getting the initial bad ionized calcium results and getting the other results. Their u/s tech only comes in once a week and isn’t in this week. :(

    • Rosa Says:

      It’s so hard with vets (and human dentists!) figuring out if they’re just upselling you, or if they’re giving sound advice. And the side eye when you’re reluctant – we’re at a point where we can afford expensive vet treatment, but we still don’t want to cause unnecessary suffering and we’re just not “Don’t mention cost, do whatever it takes” people. Not even for our own medical care!

      But cats especially – one of our cats got short of breath and started sleeping sitting up. It turned out he had a giant mass growing in his chest and abdomen (we didn’t have them biopsy to find out what kind of mass). He’d been eating, peeing, cuddling, walking around – not quite as athletic as previously but I figured it was just old age. The vet told us cats almost always hide pain & debilitation if they can so it’s easy to miss symptoms until they’re almost dead.

  10. Jay Says:

    We went through this with our first Lab – we wanted a growth removed from her belly, they did pre-op labs, and then we chased a mildly abnormal liver function test for a month and found something else that then needed emergent surgery (although the dog had clearly been living with it for years with no problems.) In the end the evaluation of the liver was inconclusive, the dog was fine, the lump was gone, and I refused to do the follow-up testing in three months as suggested. I hope Little Kitty is OK.

    During this odyssey the vet called to tell me about the abnormal liver tests. As she was explaining in words of one syllable, I said “I know what those tests are. I’m a doctor.” She said “Well, you’re a people doctor.” Well, yes. And people have livers.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      I think the biomedical joke I would make here would be that that means you know a lot about pig livers. (‘Cuz aren’t pigs what they use first when they’re doing research on people?)

  11. nicoleandmaggie Says:

    Just got the vet call. Little kitty is done with tests. They had to lightly sedate her to do the ultrasound so we can’t pick her up until after noon. Her ultrasound did not see any tumors/cancers, and the parathyroid gland looked fine. Her kidneys are a little small, but the vet said that’s not unexpected for a cat of her age. So no sign of any problems there…waiting a few days for the lab tests.

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